Group interviews can seem like a scary prospect if you don’t know what to expect. But with the right attitude and preparation, you can greatly increase your chances of standing out.
The purpose of a group interview is to filter through a high volume of candidates and to assess for certain social/interpersonal skills. Most group interviews serve as a first round assessment and are followed by a round of individual interviews. I recently led a group interview process to hire Resident Advisors. With nearly 70 candidates for 6 positions, the most efficient way to interview was in a group scenario. For these positions, essential skills needed were teamwork, communication and conflict resolution, so observing candidates in a group situation helped us assess for those specific skills.
Candidates were given a list of tasks they may face as a Resident Advisor and asked to rank them in order of importance. They were then asked to sit in a group of 12-14 and come to a group consensus on the appropriate order. While candidates went through this process the interview committee observed the interactions and communication style of each candidate.
Applicants that stood out to me were the ones who actively spoke up and could articulate their opinion to the group. If they were confronted with a disagreeing opinion, I took note of how they dealt with conflict and if they could come to an agreement with the opposing team member. On the reverse side, however, I paid attention to who spoke up too much. Those that dominated the conversation or did not have the ability to compromise raised some red flags. Lastly, I noted those people that were active listeners when they were not talking. Interviewees that were engaged with their body language (e.g. eye contact with the speaker, nodding in agreement) were memorable.
While group interviews can vary in process, preparation can help. Here are some key tips for preparation:
- Develop key examples of times that you excelled in team situations. This can include group projects, volunteer work or internships.
- Be aware of your communication style. Talk to peers, professors or friends who can provide feedback on your style and strengths. If you tend to talk a lot, consider stepping back a bit during the group interview. If you tend to be more on the quiet side, challenge yourself to speak more.
- Don’t forget the importance of body language. Show that you are engaged in the interview even when you are not speaking.
- Practice! You can always make an appointment with a career counselor to practice and discuss some of the scenarios that may come up in a group interview.
Megan Bradley is a Career Counselor Graduate Intern at San José State University and an Assistant Resident Director at Santa Clara University. She is currently in her last year of the Counseling Masters Program at SCU.